Michael Brandy, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — They were up by one heading into the fourth quarter, and led by as many as six with less than eight minutes to go.
But there would be no amazing finish this time. No protecting their fourth-quarter lead, something they've done in 29 of 30 such situations previously this season. No heroes this night, not from Utah.
Not with starting point guard Deron Williams dressed in street clothes that looked much sharper than the Jazz without him. And not with starting small forward Andrei Kirilenko, the primary impetus behind their recent run of success, injured and out too.
Behind 28 points and some clutch late-game shooting from Joe Johnson, Atlanta won 105-100 Monday night at sold-out EnergySolutions Arena — ending the 36-20 Jazz's four-game win streak, and giving the 35-20 Hawks their first win in Utah since hall-of-famer Dominique Wilkins scored 43 on Feb. 13, 1993.
"The odds probably weren't in our favor," swingman Kyle Korver said. "That's a really good team we played, too; the Hawks are a good team, you know?
"But, we still expect to win when we're here (at home). We've had guys out a whole lot the last few years, and we've always found ways to win, or tried to find ways to win. Tonight we just didn't find out enough."
Seven Jazz players scored in double figures, but no one had more than Paul Millsap's 14 points off the bench.
Carlos Boozer scored 12, pulled down 10 rebounds for his 36th double of the season and had a career-high eight assists to finish two shy of what would have been his first career triple-double. But he mustered only two points in the fourth quarter one night after scoring 22 with a career-high 23 rebounds as Utah rallied from 25 down in the third quarter to win in overtime at Portland.
And the Jazz, despite playing for the fifth time in seven nights, stuck around into the final minute.
But none of that would be enough as Utah lost for just the third time in their last 20 outings.
"We made a couple mistakes trying to come down the stretch and turned the ball over a couple times, and missed some free throws that could help keep you in there," said coach Jerry Sloan, whose club dropped to a game back of Denver for second-best record in the West — but had Dallas, which did win Monday, pull to within a half-game of it. "But I thought our guys really played hard, being shorthanded and that sort of thing.
"That's all you can do — lay it out there, and see what you can come up with."
The Jazz were still up 95-94 after Korver hit a jumper with 2:48 to go, but Johnson answered with a 3-pointer from the left corner over C.J. Miles to put the Hawks — compared favorably by Miles to a really good AAU team that picks the best and most-athletic players from each of a particular city's high schools — ahead to stay.
Jamal Crawford followed with a steal from Boozer, then hit two free throws to give Atlanta some breathing room.
The Hawks were still up by just two before Johnson drove on Miles and pulled up for a jumper that made it 101-97 with 37.5 seconds left. Utah's ensuing possession ended in disaster, as Miles missed two freebies, Millsap missed a tip and Millsap eventually lost a jump ball to Josh Smith.
"He showed why he's an All-Star, he is who he is," Miles said of Johnson, who made 12-of-19. "He hit some great shots. That last one he hit I thought he had great position. I pushed him to the help, I contested it, they contested it, he was fading away. He made tough shots. That's what he does.
"We had plenty of chances to win the game. Even at the end of the game," Miles added. "Even after I missed the two free throws we had a tip-in we couldn't get to go in, so it was just tough."
That's not entirely surprising, especially after one very long post NBA All-Star Game week — spent all on the road.
Not that Sloan was buying that excuse.
"I see no reason for them to be tired," he said.
"They shouldn't be," the Jazz coach added. "None of them are over 40 years old."
Still, Sloan was cognizant of how circumstances might have conspired to keep the Jazz from winning for the 14th time in their last 15 games.
"We were shorthanded," he said, noting Williams' bruised thigh and Kirilenko's bad back. "Obviously nobody cares but us.
"The only thing we've got to do is continue to play, because what scares me the most," Sloan added, "is the winning and everything is fine, but after you lose sometimes the air goes out and you think, 'Oh, wow, we're supposed to win now without putting the effort in it to do so.' "
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